Recently, the censorship of [Fifty Shades of Grey](movie:391697) in some countries and the whole fiasco with [The Interview](movie:900924) have brought to light the importance of protecting freedom of speech. There's definitely a bigger story there, but I'm not here to discuss the geo-political implications for movie bans or chastise countries with more strict media censorship standards.
I'm simply going to highlight some of the most wacky reasons that governments have decided to censor or ban a movie from being shown in their country. Some countries are more conservative than others, which is nothing to necessarily knock - however, it just seems like banning movies from those who want to see them isn't always the best way to earn the trust of your constituents. Especially when it doesn't make sense.
So, here they are, 5 weird movie bans of movies that, in most cases, weren't even that offensive or bad.
1. Samoa banned Milk because... too gay!
The Harvey Milk biopic was about gay rights in America and that didn't sit well with Samoa. The movie was stellar and, while it featured some gay sexual interactions, it was done moderately and tastefully. The reason given by Principal Censor Leiataua Niuapu was as follows. The committee believed Milk was:
“inappropriate and contradictory to Christian beliefs and Samoan culture. In the movie itself it is trying to promote the human rights of gays. Some of the scenes are very inappropriate in regard to some of the sex in the film itself, it’s very contrary to the way of life here in Samoa.”
Homosexuality may not be as acceptable in Samoa, but this story is about gay rights in the United States. Nobody is forcing Samoa to legalize gay marriage, by any means here. A gay teenager in Samoa at this time who could've benefitted from the film's message misses out here, and I find that to be a little bit upsetting - not just that they can't see the film, but that they have to see that their government doesn't support them.
2. Zoolander was banned in Iran because... gay-ish?
This one is even better. At least a biopic on Harvey Milk makes it clear that it's promoting gay rights. But here, in 2001's film Zoolander, Iran banned it strictly based on the fact that it seemed to be promoting some kind of gay thing. I guess Iran just wasn't ready for Blue Steel... or the fabulousness that was Zoolander - I wonder if their views will change with the sequel...
3. Sex and The City 2 was banned from the United Arab Emirates because... keep all that sex stuff in New York!
So, this one is a weird one for sure. The movie was pretty ridiculous to be fair, but the rationale for this getting banned in the United Arab Emirates seems kind of strange. The film was set in Abu Dhabi, and yet it was never released there because of "cultural values."
Oddly enough, the UAE wouldn't even let the movie shoot in Abu Dhabi - it was actually filmed in Morocco. So, this is a case where I guess the country kind of had a point. I mean, couldn't they have just said they were in Morocco? Oh well, the bottom line is that this movie got a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, so does it really even matter?
4. The Simpsons Movie was banned in Burma because... the colors red and yellow were banned at the time?
You might think there was potentially a good reason for The Simpsons Movie being banned, but Burma actually took it up a few notches in the 'wtf' meter. Apparently, at one time the country’s Motion Picture and Video Censor Board banned the colors red and yellow in movies.
According to Burmese comedian and social commentator Zarganar, the board will often issue edicts like this without warning and then repeal them later the same afternoon. Don't feel too bad for [The Simpsons](series:200695) team though... I'm sure they have enough money. Missing out on that Burma Cash® probably didn't hurt them too much. What, they're in like Season 5,000 now, right? And the show is still hilarious somehow.
5. Avatar was banned in China because... too epic and made too much money?
The People's Republic of China only lets 20 non-domestic films get screened per year, but most of the time, those are big time blockbusters. Obviously, Avatar could be considered a massive blockbuster, and so naturally it made its way onto Chinese theater screens. However, it was deliberately pulled from theaters after two weeks because officials feared that the forced removal of the Na’vi would cause political unrest among the Chinese locals who face eviction from their own homes. Hmm... ok...
Talk about extrapolating! Also, they were concerned that Avatar was making too much money and “seized market share from domestic films.” Inexplicably, 3D, Imax, and DVD versions of the film were still allowed. Once again, the film probably lost a decent amount of money from the lack of Chinese moviegoers, but don't cry for James Cameron and co. They made around $2.8 billion worldwide!